How and why should we achieve ISO9001?

We often get asked why companies should seek to achieve ISO 9001. In this article, we explain the benefits and the process we follow to help clients gain certification. 

There are many and varied descriptions of what defines ‘quality’ when using this attribute to promote a business or its products and services. These also include terms such as:

  • Value for money
  • Correctness
  • Reliability
  • Fitness for purpose
  • Consistency

Yet, perhaps the most focused business definition is :

Quality = Meeting Your Customer’s Needs and Expectations.

In most businesses, the techniques and skills employed to attract, satisfy and retain customers can be similar whether you are a small SME or a global plc.  It is about people, but people need to have good processes to work, and everyone needs to understand how they work and be trained to apply them.

It is the business processes that ISO 9001 seeks to analyse, streamline and document. This starts with a quality manual with supporting policies, procedures and forms which can be used by everyone throughout the business in every department. This could management right through to the machinery operators on the factory production line.

What is the ISO 9001 Standard?

  • ISO 9001 is the world’s most established quality framework, helping different types of organisations succeed through improved customer satisfaction and staff motivation.
  • It is a series of SYSTEMS and PROCEDURES describing a method of working efficiently and effectively within your business. This is captured in a tailor-made Quality Manual, specific to your business.
  • The Manual comprises DOCUMENTS and FORMS, FLOWCHARTS and WORK INSTRUCTIONS.
  • A well managed Quality System looks at the processes across all areas of the business, starting with the customer enquiry and business operations, all the way through to delivery to the customer.  In simple terms, the process ensures that the customer receives what they wanted and is happy with their purchase. As well as sales and operations, other areas like marketing, finance, manufacturing, purchasing, and distribution can be all be included within the scope of registration.
  • ISO 9001 : 2015 is a Standard recognised by all UK and international businesses

Why achieve ISO 9001 Certification?

The overarching reason is to demonstrate that your business is reputable, operates safely and cares about quality. Both in respect of its services and products, but also with regard to employee wellbeing.

As long as the processes are followed, achieving ISO 9001 certification provides confidence that customers will receive what has been agreed. This helps to increase customer satisfaction and protects the organisation by reducing the risk of loss of customers through poor products or services.

Achieving ISO 9001 can also help improve performance and help the organisation be more competitive and dynamic. Less time is spent on correcting problems and more on proactive measures.

The process review can help to improve efficiency and reduce waste by removing activities that cost but do not add value.

By ensuring everyone understands your processes ISO 9001 can also help to focus organisational objectives and less time is spent correcting mixed messages about how things should be done.

ISO 9001 is also an internationally recognised standard that often buyers require before they will place orders with your company. It, therefore, helps you reach new markets and expand your client portfolio.

Typical Objections to Implementing ISO 9001

In our experience, time and time again we hear the same objections from clients who are initially reluctant to implement ISO 9001. These include:

  • They believe that the process will be a bureaucratic and form-filling exercise and lead to more paperwork
  • They believe the process will be time-consuming
  • They believe that meeting the customer’s needs and expectations is just about products.
  • Failure to accept that everyone in the company has both a customer and a supplier.
  • Failure to recognise that meeting the customer’s needs and expectations is a continual process.
  • Fear/Reluctance to change
  • Failure to recognise the point of the Standard is to save you money, not an additional cost.

FPA Consulting has many years of experience and has received many positive testimonials from customers who we have helped to overcome these objections. We work with the Management and staff to demonstrate the improvements that ISO 9001 can bring to your company so that everyone understands the value and is willing to buy into achieving the accreditation.

The most successful and rewarding implementations are in organisations where management have embraced the Standard and their enthusiasm is shared.

Achieving Certification

Achieving ISO 9001 requires involvement from the entire company.  If implemented properly it should get everybody on board from the start, with the Senior Management leading by example.

The timescales will depend on your circumstances and could take anything from one month to a year to prepare your systems.  Typically, SMEs can be certified within 6 months.

The first step is drafting a Quality Manual, documenting your current systems and processes in all Departments of your business.

To undertake this exercise you have to examine and understand your organisation and the existing systems and processes.  At this stage, you can look to streamline any processes and reduce wasted/duplicated effort.

The Manual comprises Procedures, Work Instructions and Forms which together represent your business operations whilst meeting the criteria of the Standard.  You may find some processes can be improved with Best Practices, for example, the process around Customer Complaints may not be one you wish to invoke regularly but it is reassuring for potential customers to know their concerns will be dealt with through a process rather than lost into a black hole.

Once your Quality Manual and Evidence are ready for certification, you can apply for accreditation from one of the Certifying Bodies, preferably one which belongs to UKAS.

An auditor will come to your premises and perform a 2-stage Compliance Audit

Stage 1 – looks at your documents and records

Stage 2 – the Auditor will return to carry out some practical audits.

Once you have achieved ISO9001 certified status, there is an annual audit to ensure the processes are being followed.

Post by:

John Barke

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